Below is an annotated list of children's literature for the elementary classroom. The books are organized by the Six Elements of Social Justice Curriculum Design (Picower, 2007). It is based on work by pre-service teachers at Montclair State University. They have read and reviewed these books and provided insights into how they can be used in K-5 settings.
Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Illustrator: Ann Marshall
Grade Level: 3rd through 5th
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Summary: In this true story, “Luba: The Angel of Bergen-Belsen, Luba Tryszynska-Frederick shares her heroic tale while living in Auschwitz, a Nazi concentration camp. Taken from her home in Poland and separated from her husband and young child to be imprisoned for an unidentified length of time, Luba spent her first night in Auschwitz asking herself, “Why am I still alive? Why was I spared?” It was during this first night that she awoke to cries from young children off in the distance that lead her to her answer to these questions. Discovering fifty-four children left for dead in the cold, she quietly escorted them to her bunk and along with several other women, they began to care for them as if they were their own. Risking her life day after day, Luba’s bravery and courage allows her to fool the Nazi guards into thinking she is a camp nurse and travel to other barracks in order to gather food and medicine from other compassionate prisoners willing to risk themselves in order to help Luba and these children. Why was she still alive? Why was she spared? Luba answers these questions as she sets forth to do whatever it takes to keep these children alive. Both Luba and all fifty-four children lived to see the day of British Army tanks arrive and announcing, “You are free! You are free!”
Element 4: Social Movement and Social Change: "Luba: the Angel of Bergen-Belsen," is a great example of a social movement or change. In this story, Luba shows us that despite the risks, she decides that it is more important to care for these children than to leave them. She exudes heroism and stands for what she believes is the right thing to do. This book allows children to consider what lengths they would go to in order to do the right thing and the strength and courage that any one can possess, even in the darkest circumstances. Luba expresses her reasoning for her actions, always hoping that if her son was one of these children, that someone would do the same for her son. This book helps us take a look at ourselves a little deeper and makes us question, if it were me, would I do the same?
Activity: This book forces readers to consider what they would have done if they were Luba, would you sacrifice your life to save others? While this question may be a bit more mature for elementary students, an activity that can be used to make this more age appropriate could be to discuss an issue with students that they can relate to, but would require them to make decisions based on what they think is right. I would think about social issues children face on a day to day basis, such as bullying, and prepare role playing scenarios for groups of children to act out. The students would be given a piece of paper with the scenario, for example, "You are at recess and playing on the playground with your friends. You notice a girl in your class being picked on by three older girls, she seems scared and upset. Prepare two scenarios that you and your group members believe to be the right way to handle this." After each group acts out their two scenarios, as a class, we can discuss why students chose to react as they did and what suggestions could be helpful in order to make sure we all stand up for our classmates. By participating in a relate-able, role playing exercise that forces students to think about what they would do in a situation and what they would sacrifice allows students to empathize with Luba and the decisions she was faced with.